Israelis leaving high-tech jobs to pursue dreams

Mr Dotan Goshen is one of a growing number of Israelis who are leaving the tech industry in search of alternative lifestyles.
Mr Dotan Goshen is one of a growing number of Israelis who are leaving the tech industry in search of alternative lifestyles.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

JERUSALEM • Former high-tech executive Dotan Goshen carefully arranges some melons at the bottom of a crate, followed by courgettes, tomatoes and lettuce.

With a satisfied smile, he contemplates his "organic basket", ready to be delivered to a customer.

Mr Goshen, a graduate of Israel's prestigious Technion technological institute, made a dramatic change of course after his boss called him at home one evening and berated him for not devoting himself sufficiently to his work - even though he was putting in at least 50 hours a week.

The following day, the 37-year- old father of three handed in his resignation and set out to realise his dream of producing organic fruit and vegetables.

He is one of a growing number of Israelis who entered the flourishing tech industry at a young age before abandoning high-flying jobs and good salaries for a lifestyle more suited to their ideals.

The phenomenon is not uniquely Israeli. In many technologically advanced countries, executives are being tempted by adventure, the chance to embrace a simpler, healthier lifestyle and by the "search for self".

But in Israel, where job mobility is the norm and recruitment tends to be more informal than elsewhere, the desire for change is heightened, said Mr Daniel Barkat, himself a former high-tech executive who switched to producing vegan chocolate.

"In Israel, when you leave the (army's) 8200 unit without a university education, you can find yourself launched into a position of responsibility in high-tech, then wanting to do something different after a few years," he explained.

Israelis are drafted into the army at age 18 and generally only begin higher education on completion of their service. The elite 8200 military unit collates and analyses intelligence using sophisticated information technology.

In a country where most youngsters perform mandatory military service - 32 months for men and two years for women - Unit 8200 is considered the superhighway to a job in the lucrative tech field.

In Israel, the desire to return to spirituality and to the soil seen in other countries has an added connotation of nostalgia for the early pioneering days of the Jewish state, said Mr Daniel Haber, consultant and author of Surprises Of The Economy Of Israel.

"In this country under pressure - exacerbated pressure, in the case of high-tech - there is nostalgia for the old days of the kibbutz; sharing; the foundational and spiritual myths of the state," he said.

Recruited to a management job in a financial information company after his military service, Mr Barkat, now 29, abandoned that world to create his chocolate business.

He said: "At the age of 24, I had achieved what adults spend their entire lives to achieve: steady, prestigious, well-paid work.

"But my work was very technical, boring, meaningless. I asked myself, 'Where do I go now?'"


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2017, with the headline 'Israelis leaving high-tech jobs to pursue dreams'. Print Edition | Subscribe